2020 was the first time an election was conducted by mass vote-by-mail. It was a train wreck.
According to federal data, election officials do not know what happened to nearly 15 million mail ballots in 2020. Some of these ballots were blowing in the winds on Nevada roads, and some were in stacks on apartment lobby floors. Some ended up in landfills.
No surprise considering that the United States Post Office aspired to a 95% success rate in getting election mail delivered on time. Put another way, the post office was content with a 5% failure rate.
Thank goodness the airlines expect more from themselves.
In hindsight, the 2020 mail ballot numbers look awful.
Another 1.1 million mail ballots were returned as undeliverable, meaning they went to the wrong address and never reached the intended recipient. This reveals a whole other problem of states not having accurate up to date voter rolls.
President Biden’s vote margin of victory in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada was smaller than the number of missing and undeliverable ballots sent in the mail by those states. When you send more ballots to faulty addresses and lose track of more ballots than the difference between winning and losing a state’s Electoral College votes, that is a core system failure.
Last week, the United States Post Office announced it is creating a division to focus on improving election mail issues.
It’s about time. America should not trust our political system to the people who regularly deliver you your neighbor’s mail.
The status quo isn’t working. The focus and reform announced at the USPS are long overdue. Vote-by-mail has been a disaster that includes disenfranchising voters. When the USPS loses ballots — which they do — they disenfranchise voters.
Notably, the same groups who crow about disenfranchisement when it involves voter ID have said nothing when faced with the facts of USPS disenfranchising voters.
Unsupervised mail voting is the worst way to run an election. Voting takes place behind closed doors, away from observers and election officials. Intimidation, coercion and election crimes flourish in this environment. In a case I worked on at the United States Department of Justice, mail voting enabled vote stealing and coercion. Notaries snatched ballots from mailboxes and voted them, not the voters.
The Post Office shouldn’t be anywhere near our elections.
It’s even worse.
To conduct an election by mass vote-by-mail, accurate voter rolls are required. Unfortunately, the voter rolls are a mess. An analysis by the Public Interest Legal Foundation in 2020 found nearly 350,000 deceased registrants and nearly 40,000 duplicate registrants on America’s voter rolls. When you automatically send everyone on the voter rolls a mail ballot, these deceased and duplicate registrants are receiving ballots.
Elections should be conducted with transparency in person. When you vote in person, you are given the opportunity to fix any issues with your ballot.
2020 proved that elections conducted by mass vote-by-mail need to be a one-time experiment. When election officials do not know what happened to nearly 15 million mail ballots, there is a huge problem.
Vote-by-mail leads to chaos and distrust in our election process. Americans deserve better than that.
• J. Christian Adams is the president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a former Justice Department attorney and the current commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights.